Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixed

Has science taken a wrong turn? If so, what corrections are needed? Chronicles of scientific misbehavior. The role of heretic-pioneers and forbidden questions in the sciences. Is peer review working? The perverse "consensus of leading scientists." Good public relations versus good science.

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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby StefanR » Mon Nov 18, 2013 1:35 am

pln2bz wrote: We're not quite done here yet ...


I surely do hope so! How very interesting!
I hope you will indicate when you're finished, as I will not comment till then,
but I just wanted to let you know that this very engaging.
8-)
The illusion from which we are seeking to extricate ourselves is not that constituted by the realm of space and time, but that which comes from failing to know that realm from the standpoint of a higher vision. -L.H.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Nov 18, 2013 2:29 pm

Awesome! We're almost at the halfway point of what I have. Once we get deep into concepts, we will necessarily enter into a field which lacks consensus to this day. People should expect to at this point to see a lot of controversy. I will somehow have to manage wrapping up, for there is material beyond that as well …

I'm perhaps more excited than you realize by the prospect of the Thunderbolts Forum possibly becoming engaged on this subject. You guys are in a unique position to reflect on these big important questions in science education.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Mon Nov 18, 2013 9:37 pm

A typical force concept inventory question ...

Image


See the MindShift article for another example. Continuing our history lesson in the FCI …

Hestenes and Halloun gave their test to about 1,000 students in introductory physics courses taught by seven different instructors at two different schools.

Each class was taught in a traditional lecture mode, though the instructors had different styles. One did a lot of elaborate demonstrations. One emphasized problem-solving. Another was a theoretical physicist who devoted a lot of time to talking about the conceptual structure of physics.

Students in these seven different classes took the test at the beginning of the semester. Perhaps not surprisingly, they didn’t do very well (though many of them had already taken high school physics; Hestenes and Halloun expected them to do better).

The students took the test again at the end of the semester. And they still didn’t do very well. Their scores went up by only about 14 percent, meaning that, after an entire semester, they understood only about 14 percent more about the fundamental concepts of physics than they had at the beginning.

The results were published in a series of articles in the American Journal of Physics in 1985.

Hestenes says the editor of the American Journal of Physics was fascinated by the findings, but there was not a lot of immediate interest from his fellow physics professors.

Even the ones who’d participated in the experiment “didn’t pay any attention” to the results, says Hestenes. “One reason may be that they really didn’t know what to do.”

Lecturing was the way just about everyone taught introductory physics. To think there was something wrong with the lecture meant physics instructors would “have to really change the way they do things,” says Hestenes.

A lot of them ignored his study and kept teaching the way they always had. They insisted their lectures were working just fine.


This might be one of the most important articles on science education I've ever crossed paths with. However, despite the incredible story and journalism, I feel it might have emphasized in bolder terms that what the FCI seems to be suggesting is in fact a huge unexpected surprise for most people: it's suggesting that the way in which we teach and communicate about science can have an incredible impact upon our beliefs within science about the theories themselves. The notion of the scientific method is that we can revise our beliefs in light of well-supported evidence which might contradict our pre-existing notions. But, what the FCI seems to be saying is that -- even if we accept that notion in principle -- most of us apparently nevertheless exhibit enormous trouble actually doing so, from day one.

Another problem becomes apparent by considering what is actually at stake with conceptual comprehension. We need not subscribe to any theory of concepts to discuss this. Research suggests that some concepts are more typical than others. It's very easy to personally confirm this through examples. For instance, you should be able to confirm for yourself that an office chair is a more typical chair than a bean bag. In the same manner, an eagle is a more typical bird than an emu. You intuitively already know these things (and we'll eventually be returning to this fascinating subject). Perhaps I'm trying too hard to be explicit here, but the importance of concepts to science education probably cannot be overstated. From The Big Book of Concepts by Gregory L Murphy …

"The importance of ideals in determining typicality is that they suggest that the category’s place in some broader knowledge structure could be important. That is, people don’t just learn that tools are things like hammers, saws, and planes, but they also use more general knowledge about what tools are used for and why we have them in order to represent the category. Category members that best serve those functions may be seen as more typical, above and beyond the specific features they share with other members." (page 37)

"The concept is represented as features that are usually found in the category members, but some features are more important than others. It is important for weapons that they be able to hurt you, but not so important that they be made of metal, even though many weapons are. Thus, the feature "can do harm" would be highly weighted in the representation, whereas the feature "made of metal" would not be." (pages 42 - 43)


In other words, bringing it all together, we can reasonably suspect that science education which does not ensure that the underlying concepts have been properly learned creates students who will predictably fail to understand (a) why they are learning the material to begin with, as well as (b) how to actually apply whatever knowledge they've managed to learn. The weighting we see associated with functionality in concepts suggests that the concepts are there, in many instances, to help us to understand what we can do with those things. If somebody has failed to understand the concepts which make up science, then they will predictably fail to learn how to use the ideas of science as tools for reasoning about their surroundings.

This is really important stuff here. It's actually rather catastrophic.

Continuing with the story …

Image


Taking It to Heart

But Eric Mazur was unusual, says Hestenes. “He was the first one who took it to heart.”

Mazur is a physics professor at Harvard University. He came across Hestenes’s articles in 1990, five years after they’d been published.

To understand why the articles had such a big impact on Mazur you have to know some things about his history.

Mazur grew up dreaming of becoming an astronomer.

“When I was five years old I fell in love with the universe,” he says. “I tried to get my hands on to every accessible book on astronomy. I was so excited by the world of science.”

But when Mazur got to university, he hated the astronomy classes.

“It was all sitting in the lecture, and then scribbling down notes and cramming those notes and parroting them back on the exam,” he says. “Focusing on the details, focusing on memorizing and regurgitation, the whole beauty of astronomy was lost.”


So he switched to physics. It wasn’t as heartbreaking for him to sit in a physics lecture and memorize things.

Mazur eventually got a Ph.D. in physics and a job at Harvard University. Like most Ph.D.s, Mazur never got any training in how to teach.

“I just mimicked what my instructors had done to me. I think that’s what we all do. So, I lectured.”


Turns out he loved lecturing. It’s a lot more fun being on stage delivering a lecture than it is sitting in the audience watching. And that’s exactly what a lecture is, says Mazur: a performance. He decided to make it fun.

“Thanks to the setup we have here at Harvard, it was very flashy, like a Hollywood show,” he says. “Attention-grabbing demos, me shooting through the lecture hall in a rocket car.”

Mazur’s students apparently loved it. His classes were full and he got great evaluations from the students at the end of every semester.

“For a long while, I thought I was doing a really, really good job,” he says.

Not My Students

Then Mazur read the articles by Hestenes and Halloun. Mazur’s first instinct was to dismiss the results. The test covered such basic material; he was sure his students were learning this stuff.

But what if they weren’t? How boring it would be to learn physics and never really understand the fundamental concepts that make physics so fascinating. Mazur thought back to his own experience with astronomy; if his students were just memorizing information and solving problems, he had to know, and he had to do something about it.

So he gave them the FCI, and he was shocked.

“They didn’t do much better,” he says. “In fact, when they looked at the test that I gave to them some students asked me, ‘How should I answer these questions? According to what you taught me, or according to the way I usually think about these things?’ That’s when it started to dawn on me that something was really amiss.”

What Mazur and other physicists have come to understand is that one reason it’s hard for students to learn physics is that they come into class with a very strong set of intuitive beliefs about how the physical world works.

“We can function quite well using these intuitive beliefs,” says Mazur. “We can push a chair on the floor, we can throw a ball, even though we’ve never studied parabolic trajectories and even though we’ve never really understood forces and friction.”


[…]

According to the results of the Force Concept Inventory test … most people who take conventional lecture-based courses don’t end up with a good understanding of the fundamental concepts of physics.

This is a very difficult concept for most students to understand because they already have a concept in their mind that’s in conflict with this new concept.

“Once you understand physics you can connect those two concepts and you can see everything as part of a coherent set of laws and framework of laws,” says Mazur.

But according to the results of the Force Concept Inventory test, which has now been given to tens of thousands of students around the world, most people who take conventional lecture-based courses don’t end up with a good understanding of the fundamental concepts of physics.

“I think what many students in their introductory physics courses do is they retain their intuitive notions,” says Mazur. They memorize what the professor tells them and “parrot it back” on the exam but they never really connect what they are learning to what they already think about how the physical world works.

The way he really learned physics was to teach himself.

“I am what I am not because of my education but probably in spite of it,” he says.


While the physics education researchers are mostly focused upon belief revision from natural intuition to the principles and models of conventional science, we can also extend these observations about the observed difficulty of belief revision to transitions from conventional science to new emerging ideas in science.

“They Learn It on Their Own.”

David Hestenes says this is true for a lot of students.

“If you look at what’s happening in the introductory classes, even at the best schools, the classes only seem to be really working for about 10 percent of the students,” he says. “And I think all the evidence indicates that these 10 percent are the 10 percent of students that would learn it even without the instructor. They essentially learn it on their own.”

A whole field of education research has emerged from what physicists have learned about the problems with the traditional lecture. There are now Physics Education Research groups at dozens of universities and a long list of peer-reviewed studies that confirm what they have found. It’s not just physics where lectures fail; the traditional lecture is not an effective way to teach any subject.

“Students have to be active in developing their knowledge,” says Hestenes. “They can’t passively assimilate it.”

The idea that people learn better when they’re actively engaged is one of the central findings from an explosion of cognitive research conducted over the last several decades.

“Students come to the classroom with preconceptions about how the world works,” according to a major report by the National Research Council. “If their initial understanding is not engaged, they may fail to grasp the new concepts and information that are taught, or they may learn for the purposes of a test but revert to their preconceptions outside the classroom.”

Changing the Way Professors Teach

Researchers and instructors have developed a number of “interactive-engagement” techniques in recent years that have proven more effective than lectures for teaching large classes. Mazur uses an approach that he calls “peer instruction.” It’s hard to know how many instructors are using these approaches, but experts say most large, introductory classes – especially in the sciences – are still taught using the conventional lecture method.

Mazur says even now, years after the first articles about the FCI and the establishment of dozens of Physics Education Research programs, a lot of professors still have a hard time getting their heads around the idea that there is anything wrong with lecturing.

“Most of the people who are teaching are products of this approach to teaching,” he says. “They were successful in this approach.”

He says they are the ones, like him, who taught themselves, because they were interested and motivated to learn. But Mazur says professors need to do better, because the economy is changing; more people need to succeed in college now.

Mazur believes the challenge for educators in the 21st century is to find new ways to reach more students, and to help them learn better than they ever have before.

By Emily Hanford from American Public Media’s “American RadioWorks®”, © 2011 American Public Media.


Image


It turns out that Mazur is indeed quite the lecturer. His talk titled "Confessions of a Converted Lecturer" is truly a joy to watch. Part of what makes Mazur so great is his technical appreciation for applying scientific methodology to the practice of science education. When I first saw this YouTube video, it opened me up to the possibility that there might be new interactive ways to teach paradigm change using Mazur's peer instruction technique. I've not actually made any specific content-based progress on this idea, but I'd like to simply put it out there for people to think about. It stands to reason that becoming an expert in the application of the FCI might potentially open a lot of doors for many science education reform efforts. I've yet to fully grasp what the technique's limits are.

Mazur makes some surprising claims, like this one ...

"It's very important to have data in education. I often go to faculty meetings where my colleagues and I talk about teaching, and there are quite a few Nobel laureates around me. It is always surprising to me how whenever the discussion shifts from physics to education, people - even the most reputable scientist - completely abandon the scientific method. All of a sudden, the discussion is about anecdotes … My students learn better when blah blah blah … Or, my students like it when I do this, as if liking equates better learning." (17:21 - 18:04)


And he brings up this concept of assimilation, which is an important notion in the physics education reform movement ...

"So, I would argue that there's much more that needs to happen than just delivering information. And the fact that delivering information was not enough became clear when I gave this FCI. What is it that needs to happen? … What needs to happen is that the student needs to make sense of the information, build mental models -- not just remembering facts, but try to understand it and build mental models that you can use in other contexts. I would call that assimilating the information." (26:44 - 27:18)


But, it isn't perhaps until Mazur hits us with his own class' test results that we start to see just how serious this problem is. Mazur is an undergraduate physics professor at Harvard, where he gives his students tests which have both traditional problem sets and FCI-style conceptual questions on the same test, and in reference to the same subject material.

Image


"So let's plot, for each student, the performance on one type of problem as a function of the other type of problems. Well, I'm afraid that there's not much of a correlation. The data point is all over the place, but if you're willing to relax your definition of a line somewhat, you find that about 50% of the students do equally well here, on both types of problems … The student who does well on the conceptual problem tends to do well on the conventional problem, so if you understand the basics, you're gonna do well on the conventional problem. However, there's 40% that does well on the conventional problem, but has no clue on the basics. What are these 40%? When I saw this diagram, everything fell into place. How would you characterize these 40%? How do they get there? Who are these students? What are they doing? Memorizing … Plug and chug, right?" (41:22 - 43:07)


Here's the lesson he wants us to learn here …

"This means that better understanding leads to better problem solving. Makes sense in hindsight, right? But -- and this is the most important message I want to leave you with -- the converse of this statement is not true. Good problem solving does not necessarily mean understanding. I had been fooling myself for many years to believe that I was an effective professor, based upon the performance of my students. But, after all, it was just a house of cards. They were just plugging and chugging … And other studies have shown that retention is very, very low when you learn problem-solving by rote." (1:01:51 - 1:02:38)


I don't want to suggest that all of the misconceptions discussed within the physics education research journals should be blindly accepted. It is inevitable that certain FCI's will pop up which we might rightly question from an EU perspective, but I do think there is incredible value to considering the more general implications of the observed immunity to change suggested by the FCI.

Next up, I'd like to further explore these notions of conceptual assimilation and rote memorization in more depth through exposure to the work of Joseph Novak, the inventor of concept maps.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Thu Nov 21, 2013 3:39 pm

This is not part of the scheduled discussion, but it's always interesting to see timely validation for our identification of the problem -- which is necessarily where a lot of the focus needs to be when trying to solve a huge, complex problem like the design (and eventually, creation of) a scientific social network. 90% of our effort should be going into making sure that we've properly identified the problem.

I think the following article adds some weight to some of the things I've already discussed, as well as pointing out some new ways to think about problem-solving and innovation.

From two parts to an interview with Elon Musk at aps.org (Part I and Part II):

From Part I ...

[…]

L: You had stated in an interview recently that one of your pieces of advice for people looking to innovate is to "study physics and learn how to reason from first principles rather than reason by analogy." Can you expand on what you meant by that?

M: Of necessity, physics had to develop a framework of thinking that would allow understanding counter-intuitive elements of reality. Something like quantum physics is not very intuitive, and in order to make progress, physics essentially evolved a framework of thinking that was very effective for coming to correct answers that are not obvious. And in order to do this, it requires quite a lot of mental exertion. One cannot conduct one's everyday life reasoning from first principles; it would just require too much mental energy. So I think you have to operate most of your life with reasoning by analogy or essentially copying other people with minor variations. But if you are trying to break new ground and be really innovative, that's where you have to apply first-principle thinking and try to identify the most fundamental truths in any particular arena and you reason up from there. This requires quite a bit of mental exertion

[…]

M: I'd love to say that I spend most of my days thinking from first principles, but unfortunately I have too many separate things to do, so I have to reserve mental energy only for the things that are very important, like trying to come up with some technological breakthrough that is quite pressing, or sometimes the business is in a bit of a jam and I have to come up with some creative solution. Sometimes it happens without me trying all too hard, in that I'll wake up in the morning and have some sort of epiphany in the shower (laughs). It's a cliché but it happens quite a lot. I guess subconsciously my mind's been thinking about it and several hours later after waking up it kind of pops into the conscious mind.

L: Why did you choose to study physics?

M: I was really curious to understand how the universe works. And that's really what physics is about — trying to understand how the universe really works at a fundamental level. At one point, I was thinking about a career in physics and trying to work on physics problems, but as I looked ahead, I thought I might get stuck in some bureaucracy at a collider and then that collider could get canceled like the Super Conducting Supercollider and then that would suck (laughs). That would really be very frustrating.


I'd like to point out that this is a really important point which a lot of EU advocates might not fully appreciate: There is in fact great value to having an intense interest in a subject area without being professionally employed in it. We are not constrained by the top-down pressures which professionals must endure, nor the corporate tendency to extract every ounce of mental energy from their employees. And we have the power to identify a problem with the system as it currently stands and decide to dramatically diverge from it. We can say …

"I am going to figure out a way to turn this into a profitable business, because I think the inherent value to doing this project will in due time become self-evident to society -- even if at this current point in time, if you asked somebody, you might fail to find a single person who could actually articulate the need for this particular scientific social network."

There are surely professionals out there who might already have all of the skills necessary to actually do a lot of the things we are talking about here. But they will lack the time or mental energy to make it happen because those energies are being put into the organizations they work for. When those people get home at night, the last thing that most of them want to do is to continue solving those types of problems.

And since most of these professionals will likely be conventional scientific thinkers, they will also predictably lack the drive to actually motivate the construction of a social network which goes out of its way to protect creative ideas and thought which is critical of conventional theory within our scientific dialogue. To them, there is no problem which needs to be solved here.

It is their worldview which precludes these thoughts and conversations, so I would suggest that if you are indeed persuaded that design elements associated with the system we use to talk about science can indeed influence the quality of the theories which result in science, then there is the distinct possibility that science might possibly become stalled until a group of thinkers like the people here decides to try to create an improved substrate for scientific ideas to grow from.

It's not necessarily our burden to fix the world's problems, but it is perhaps an opportunity which is presenting itself to the world which only we happen to be able to currently see. And perhaps we have to simply trust our judgment that just because the professional community cannot currently see the need to build it, if we have properly identified the problems in their discourse -- which I think we can safely say should be easier for us than them to identify -- then the solution might nevertheless have a lasting impact upon the way that professionals talk about science.

And this is what I think of as the indirect, systems-level, meta-solution to the EU predicament: Rather than exclusively and directly confronting the technical arguments involved, we can also redesign the system upon which this dialog occurs in order give ideas like the EU a better fighting chance to survive, flourish and even elaborate. Much of my effort here is simply a matter of linking all of these seemingly unrelated dots together into a framework which is constructive towards specifying potential solutions.

L: So you were already thinking ahead: you loved physics, you wanted to study it so you could understand the universe, but you were thinking you were not going to be a physicist.

M: For a while, I did think that I wanted to be that. I had an existential crisis when I was 12 or 13, and [was] trying to figure out what does it all mean, why are we here, is it all meaningless, that sort of thing. I came to the conclusion that the best thing we can do is try to improve the scope and scale of consciousness and gain greater enlightenment which will in turn allow us to ask better and better questions, because obviously the universe is the answer, so what is the question? All questions, I suppose.

L: It's interesting to me that you chose to study physics so you could understand the universe but yet at the same time I understand that you were also taking business classes, so perhaps you were thinking about enlightenment from perhaps an entrepreneurial point of view early on?

M: I was trying to figure out what I would do and I was concerned that if I didn't study business, I would be forced to work for someone who did study business, (laughs) and they would know some special things that I didn't know. That didn't sound good, so I wanted to make sure that I knew those things too. (Laughs) I can't say I had a particular affinity for the business students quite frankly. I liked hanging out with my physics cohorts. I liked the arts and sciences people more. I don't know if you should print that. (Laughs). I wasn't the biggest fan of my business classmates. I preferred the arts and sciences.


From Part II …

[…]

L: Having studied math and physics myself, I always found that I would look at a business problem like a bifurcation tree and think about things 4 or 5 or 6 moves ahead. Do you have this as well, and if so, do you think you got this from studying physics?

M: Yeah, in general you always want to try to think about the future, try to predict the future. You're going to generate some error between the series of steps you think will occur versus what actually does occur and you want to try to minimize the error. That's a way that I think about it. And I also think about it in terms of probability streams. There's a certain set of probabilities associated with certain outcomes and you want to make sure that you're always the house. So things won't always occur the way you think they'll occur, but if you calculate it out correctly over a series of decisions you will come out significantly ahead…

L: So that's kind of how you're thinking on a day-to-day basis, would you say?

M: Yeah, I think of the future as branching probability streams.

L: Is there any downside to having studied physics or being a physicist in your position and in your industries?

M: Definitely not. I encourage everyone to do it. The difficulty is that physics is usually so badly taught in high school and even in junior high…There's too much of the teaching of the tools and not enough of the "why the hell are we learning this in the first place?"

[…]

L: What advice would you offer physics-educated professionals and early career physicists who are thinking of leaving physics for entrepreneurship?

M: [Think about] what is the thing that you want to do that you'll find fulfilling and is really useful to others, and then guide your life in that direction. In physics itself, there are only a relatively small number of people needed to advance the state of the art, particularly if it's contingent on completion of some large technical project, like the LHC. But even if someone has no intention of ultimately being a physicist, I still believe that the training of physics is excellent. So as they're going through their academic career I would recommend studying physics as a good base and then a broad range of engineering courses and then some degree of specialization in an engineering field where it fulfills someone's interest, and then arts and sciences courses, particularly history. And a few business courses are helpful so you at least know the terminology. You can probably do it with one accounting course, [although] I hate accounting. It's worth it to have some business courses but you don't need too many. And I wouldn't recommend an MBA. I'd say no MBA needed. An MBA is a bad idea.

L: Why?

M: It teaches people all sorts of wrong things.

L: What do you mean?

M: They don't teach people to think in MBA schools. And the top MBA schools are the worst. Because they actually teach people that you must be special, and it causes people to close down their feedback loop and not rigorously examine when they are wrong.

[…]
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 22, 2013 9:55 am

Musk said:

M: Of necessity, physics had to develop a framework of thinking that would allow understanding counter-intuitive elements of reality. Something like quantum physics is not very intuitive, and in order to make progress, physics essentially evolved a framework of thinking that was very effective for coming to correct answers that are not obvious. And in order to do this, it requires quite a lot of mental exertion. One cannot conduct one's everyday life reasoning from first principles; it would just require too much mental energy. So I think you have to operate most of your life with reasoning by analogy or essentially copying other people with minor variations. But if you are trying to break new ground and be really innovative, that's where you have to apply first-principle thinking and try to identify the most fundamental truths in any particular arena and you reason up from there. This requires quite a bit of mental exertion




Just wanted to jump in for a second and point out that, what Musk is selling, and you are embracing, is actually an appeal to the irrational concepts in physics, derived not from observation, but from irrational epistemology and metaphysics already held by Bohr and his ilk before any experiments were performed. The "counter-intuitive", notion as I pointed out earlier, is a result of such concepts as "quantum logic", derived from the first principles of an irrationalist epistemology.

In The Logical Leap, David Harriman explains:

The proponents of the Copenhagen interpretation were not troubled by the wave/particle duality. Bohr argued that "we must accept the fact that a complete elucidation of one and the same object may require diverse points of view which defy a unique description" i.e., we must except the use of contradictory models.
pg 249

As Harriman has pointed out, when Bohr expressed his supposed experimentally derived irrationalist conclusions about reality, his friend remarked, "But Neils, you were saying that to us all twenty years ago." Bohr started from irrational first principles, and ended up with irrational, "counter-intuitive" concepts.

Edit: I'm bringing this up mostly because it will become important when we discuss Constructivism.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:12 pm

That is an interesting interpretation. And within the context of conventional science, it might actually be an accurate critique. I am less sure that this will be the only interpretation available to us when we discuss issues related to science education. After all, it can take a number of years to understand a new idea in science. So, it stands to reason that people undergoing conceptual change will necessarily hold contradictions for some amount of time.

It may turn out that both of these things are happening at once, for it's not clear to me that constructivists are intensely focused on talking about anything other than education (?).
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 22, 2013 12:25 pm

Chris said:

So, it stands to reason that people undergoing conceptual change will necessarily hold contradictions for some amount of time.


This is quite a different sense of "holding contradiction" than the sense being promoted by the active renunciation of either/or thinking. That is, the above is an equivocation/contradiction on/of prior statements in this thread.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:29 pm

This is quite a different sense of "holding contradiction" than the sense being promoted by the active renunciation of either/or thinking.


I prefer to think of thought which involves holding contradictions within the context of a particular purpose or domain. If we are talking about scientific theory itself, then I am 100% with you there, that theorists are bound to keeping contradictions out of their models -- and I would even go so far as to say that a scientific social network should partly be tasked with identifying these contradictions.

But, within the domains of cognitive processes like science education and contemplating worldviews, it seems to me that there are times when being able to hold contradictions serves an important cognitive function. And there seems to be evidence that the human mind does the same thing: There is definitely a system of logic which glues our thoughts together, but the mind seems to also routinely hold contradictions. And it's not clear to me that these contradictions are all signs of mistaken thought. In other words, if one was to actually clear the mind of all of these contradictions, it's not apparent to me that what would be left would resemble a thinking person.

For instance, from The Big Book of Concepts

"Hampton found a number of cases in which an item was judged to be a member of the subset category but not the higher category — that is, examples of chairs that were not thought to be furniture. For instance, subjects judged that chairs were furniture and that a car seat was a chair; however, they usually denied that a car seat was furniture. But if a car seat has the defining features ofchairs , and chairs have the defining features of furniture, then car seat must have the defining features of furniture." (page 27)


It's probably not the best example, but I think you probably already know that there are many apparent contradictions in the way that the mind represents concepts.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 22, 2013 3:14 pm

Chris , the difference of the two senses of "holding contradictions" is still eluding you. I will try to elucidate it more in a bit.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
Plasmatic
 
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby pln2bz » Sat Nov 23, 2013 1:49 pm

We'll soon be moving into a discussion about misconceptions in science education. Here is an interesting, and I believe related, factoid which popped up in the news today (bold is mine) …

"Famous research by University of Chicago economist and Nobel laureate James Heckman found that every dollar invested in a high-quality early education program saves taxpayers at least $7 in social costs later. The long-term savings decline even before kindergarten, since the older a child is, the harder deficiencies are to repair."


To be sure, this is an incredibly complex subject. But, rather than doing a comprehensive review of this large research topic (which could easily occupy all of our attention for many years), we're instead going to be taking a look at one possible theoretical explanation for the above quoted observation, which is relevant to our own interest in a scientific social network, science communication and science education. And even if there turns out to be a debate over the details, the point of this brief glimpse will be to show the importance of having a theory in education which is (a) grounded in how people actually think, and (b) proposed as a reaction to the educational patterns we currently observe to be obstructing effective critical and creative thought in science today.

I think the quote above helps us to see that the immunity to change is very real. These discussions we'll be having over concepts are not some academic exercise devoid of real-world implications. There are consequences to how we teach and discuss concepts in a very broad sense which we can potentially use to fine-tune our approach to science education.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby ZenMonkeyNZ » Thu Nov 28, 2013 4:33 pm

Plasmatic wrote:"Both/and"....

I don't want to start a lecture on how that quote is packaging two completely different concepts together, in order to smuggle anti-reason irrationalism into a discussion about active-mindedness, but, to someone who's familiar with that philosophical premise:

You mean, like 2+2= both 4 AND 6 ? .......

If your gonna go forward with the interesting idea that is the topic of this thread, I'd reconsider this bit....

Check your premises... And the premises of those who's philosophy your pasting from. :)



I'm not sure if this ever got answered, but it didn't look like it from the first page of this thread. I don't know what Chris' approach to this would be either, but I do not see this as a problem, as long as you can explain why 2 + 2 can equal both 4 and 6. As a simple example, one can say that 2 + 2 = 10 in a base 4 system, and that 2 + 2 = 11 in a base 3 system. I have an explanation for those statements. The statements can be evaluated according to the premises and explanations given.

If you immediately reject the statement 2 + 2 = both 4 and 10, because it lies outside your natural tendency to think just in base 10, then you fail to be open to expanded view points or seeing errors/omissions in your premises/assumptions. And I think this is the point made about holding apparently contradictory positions. Until you go through a dialectical process and rationally compare those positions and examine the assumptions underlying each, you cannot confidently assess the worth of each, or know whether in fact they are not contradictory at all.

It is the automatic rejection of ideas because of apparent contradiction that is part of the issue with indoctrinated thought. In complex topics you may need to hold and evaluate contradictory positions for a long time before coming to satisfactory conclusions or finding new theoretical paths.

There may be more to this, but that is my first impression of that issue.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:39 am

Zen said:

If you immediately reject the statement 2 + 2 = both 4 and 10, because it lies outside your natural tendency to think just in base 10, then you fail to be open to expanded view points or seeing errors/omissions in your premises/assumptions. And I think this is the point made about holding apparently contradictory positions. Until you go through a dialectical process and rationally compare those positions and examine the assumptions underlying each, you cannot confidently assess the worth of each, or know whether in fact they are not contradictory at all.

It is the automatic rejection of ideas because of apparent contradiction that is part of the issue with indoctrinated thought. In complex topics you may need to hold and evaluate contradictory positions for a long time before coming to satisfactory conclusions or finding new theoretical paths.


First, read the rest of the exchanges on this. When you do you will see that the term apparent was never used while promoting the both/and program. Second, the concept of contradiction originates within an anti identity context. Find out what identity is and you'll understand why "both/and" are substitutes for "at the same time and the same respect". Compare and contrast your sense of "apparent contradiction" with the principle of Identity and you will comprehend the different "senses" discussed in this thread.

The promotion of contradiction is a failure to understand how logic is the application of the law of Identity. Observing differences amongst premises is not "holding a contradiction" any more than a person seeing a car from the right side is contradicting what a person sees from the opposite side.

Ill be happy to discuss this further once you've read all the relevant exchanges.
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
Plasmatic
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:14 pm

Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby ZenMonkeyNZ » Fri Nov 29, 2013 9:23 pm

First, read the rest of the exchanges on this. When you do you will see that the term apparent was never used while promoting the both/and program.


I understand apparent was not used. I was emphasizing the fact that you do not know if contradiction is real or just perceived, especially between complex ideas/theories, without being open to honestly exploring premises/assumptions, new information, etc. That much, I think we agree on . . . and as you point out, the example given is not a logical contradiction, but an issue of holding different premises/having different information.

Compare and contrast your sense of "apparent contradiction" with the principle of Identity and you will comprehend the different "senses" discussed in this thread.


And here, too, I agree that logical contradiction is not something that we want to hold. But there is an intellectual trap, and it is this: thinking you can always (or even mostly) tell the difference between logical contradictions and apparent contradictions (especially when involving complex ideas, layers of assumptions, etc.).

Identity errors, false equivalence, lack of information, and many more issues contribute to this problem. Is gravity a fundamental force, or is it a side-effect of subatomic dipole moments or associated with the electromagnetic force in some other way? Depending on your view, identity changes. Holding contradictions is not always irrational when you consider real-world problems, which are usually much more complex than the idealized and simplified examples provided when discussing logical theory.

This is my take on it.
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Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby Plasmatic » Fri Nov 29, 2013 10:17 pm

Zen:
"And here, too, I agree that logical contradiction is not something that we want to hold. But there is an intellectual trap, and it is this: thinking you can always (or even mostly) tell the difference between logical contradictions and apparent contradictions (especially when involving complex ideas, layers of assumptions, etc.).

Identity errors, false equivalence, lack of information, and many more issues contribute to this problem. Is gravity a fundamental force, or is it a side-effect of subatomic dipole moments or associated with the electromagnetic force in some other way? Depending on your view, identity changes. Holding contradictions is not always irrational when you consider real-world problems, which are usually much more complex than the idealized and simplified examples provided when discussing logical theory."


Repudiating identity is always irrational. "Identity changes" is a contradiction when one understands what it means. A thing at any given time, is what it is. When change happens, it does so in accordance with the identity of the actor. This is what causality means. The law of identity applied to action. There is no sense in which one can repudiate either/or thinking without embracing a logical contradiction. In fact one cannot deny this without reaffirming it. So the apparent-actual distinction is a sideshow. As soon as one rejects either/or, one is repudiating identity.

Can one, while integrating new data , accept a premise without realizing all that this new premise implies about the rest of ones premises? Yes.

Can one actually repudiate either or thinking without embracing logical contradictions? No.

The statement, "Holding contradictions is not always irrational when you consider real-world problems, which are usually much more complex than the idealized and simplified examples provided when discussing logical theory."
continues to propagate the equivocation between the two completely different "senses" being differentiated here.
One is an explicit repudiation of logic, and therefore identity, and the other is an error of knowledge/method.

One can package these two together innocently out of ignorance/ lack of understanding, or one can do so In order to undermine reason at its root. Many tyrants have done this with full knowledge of how it obfuscates intentionality/meaning in speech acts/language, in order to skirt accountability and intellectually disarm their subjects.(see The Ominous Parallels) Its not a coincidence that certain "education" oriented philosophies embrace this package deal, while also being explicit vehicles for "social" (political) change!
"Logic is the art of non-contradictory identification"......" I am therefore Ill think"
Ayn Rand
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
Aristotle
Plasmatic
 
Posts: 800
Joined: Thu Mar 13, 2008 11:14 pm

Re: Online scientific discourse is broken and it can be fixe

Unread postby ZenMonkeyNZ » Fri Nov 29, 2013 11:29 pm

Plasmatic wrote:Can one actually repudiate either or thinking without embracing logical contradictions? No.


Straw man. I'm not advocating embracing logical contradictions. I'm advocating the realization that in the real world it is difficult to distinguish between logical contradiction and apparent contradiction – therefore rejecting what seems like (apparent) contradiction without open exploration of all premises/new information/etc., is a mistake.

And, as stated, this is my current take on what is being promoted re: this aspect of the discussion.

Does this continue . . .
to propagate the equivocation between the two completely different "senses" being differentiated here
?

No.

One can package these two together innocently out of ignorance/ lack of understanding, or one can do so In order to undermine reason at its root. Many tyrants have done this with full knowledge of how it obfuscates intentionality/meaning in speech acts/language, in order to skirt accountability and intellectually disarm their subjects.


Well, yes, as in the use of a perverted Hegelian dialectic as a political/corporate tool. Misapplication/perversion is worth discussing, but doesn't invalidate what I have noted previously.

It might be worth letting Chris finish where he is going before we hijack this thread any more.

Thanks for the The Ominous Parallels reference.
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